Chapter 63 The Mystery of the Butterfly
Listening to Victor’s request, the woman felt uncertain and frowned. “I couldn’t wait for such a long time.”
Victor pleaded, “Emilia, please give me a little more time, I begged you, just a little more time…”
Emilia said apologetically, “I’m sorry, I don’t have much time left.” She shook her head, turned around, and made a gesture. The butterflies gently placed the children they carried on the ground. The children were very young and didn’t understand what was happening. They kept crying and fussing.
She stood amidst the ruins, silently gazing at the crying little lives and softly said, “They are returned to you.”
“Why?” Victor exclaimed in surprise, “Why didn’t you…?”
“Turn them into bright butterflies too?” Emilia replied, her tone somewhat cold, in contrast to Victor’s excitement. “I don’t need that many companions. I appreciate your efforts, but you have done enough. There are certain rules, even alchemy cannot change them, Victor. It’s time for you to wake up.”
Victor tried to reach out and hold Emilia, but the half-human, half-butterfly creature turned away without any hesitation, causing a gentle breeze.
Victor shouted excitedly as he watched her indifferent figure, “Emilia, I loved you—”
The woman remained unaffected by Victor’s heartfelt confession. She calmly stated, “I think you love him more.” She pointed towards Alfarr, who was gleefully standing nearby.
“You’re crazy,” Victor exclaimed, wide-eyed. “How could I love him?”
Emilia said ruthlessly, “If both he and I were poisoned, and you had only one antidote, whom would you choose to save?”
Victor’s answer seemed ready to spill out, but he suddenly realized something and directed his anger towards Alfarr. “He can’t die so easily! I want him to witness my success with his own eyes!”
“Look,” Emilia said, “the answer is already clear.”
“It’s not like that,” Victor nearly lost control. “With you, it’s genuine love between a man and a woman. I don’t care about your appearance or your race, as long as we can be together—”
“Be with you and witness your love with Alfarr? Sorry, that’s not my interest.”
After saying those words, she distanced herself from Victor with a noticeable touch of disdain.
Alfarr rushed to Victor, gesturing wildly, and said, “Look at the mess you’ve created. Your adherence to naturalist philosophy has led to a disastrous outcome. Transforming butterflies into humans, and humans into butterflies—such a blatant violation of the laws of nature will inevitably result in consequences. It doesn’t matter if you’re infatuated with her. She has no interest in you. This is the pitiful fate of your rebellion and abandonment!”
“What right does this filthy humanist philosopher have to shout in front of me?” Victor angrily retorted. “If it weren’t for me, the Brightwing Butterflies would have long gone extinct. Who are you to come here and dictate? Just because you were born a human, you think you’re the master of all things. You fail to understand that life is equal, whether it’s an ant or a butterfly, the weight of their souls is measured in the same grams!”
“You’re the real failure!! I was born a human, what’s wrong with considering the welfare of humans? You also played a part in the extinction of the Brightwing Butterflies. Haven’t you used their wings to make potions enough? Now you’ve turned everything into chaos. What benefits have you gained?!” Alfarr roared.
In their not particularly strong bodies, it seemed as if an endless anger and strength burst forth. If Victor hadn’t been tied down on the ground, he might have already gotten up and engaged in a brawl with Alfarr.
Zhuang Lao and the three of them stood nearby, eavesdropping. After listening for a while, they probably understood the course of events.
Due to the alchemist’s capture and the sudden appearance of a poisonous mushroom colony, the precious Brightwing Butterflies had been on the verge of extinction.
Victor and Alfarr, once close friends, decided to save the precious Brightwing Butterflies. They searched for a long time and finally found traces of the last Brightwing Butterflies on a cliff. However, their search for the butterfly led to a serious disagreement.
“With only one Brightwing Butterfly left, it’s destined for extinction. Neither of us wants that to happen, so we started thinking about how to increase the number of Brightwing Butterflies,” Alfarr said. “Unfortunately, Victor’s foolish mind is filled with even more foolish ideas. He did come up with a method, but it’s a laughably foolish one!” Perhaps too angered, he repeatedly used the word “foolish” to express his frustration.
Yes, Victor did come up with a method. He started using alchemical potions, attempting to transform the people around him into Brightwing Butterflies to breed with the remaining one. He believed that if the extinction of the Brightwing Butterflies was caused by humans, it was only fair for humans to pay the price.
Alfarr clearly didn’t share the same view. He was a typical proponent of the humanist philosophy and believed that the method proposed was simply absurd. With the butterflies on the brink of extinction, there had to be other ways to save them. Why resort to targeting humans?
The conflict between the two deepened, eventually leading to a direct confrontation.
Victor took the initiative and found a few adventurers in town who had little presence. He administered the potion into their food, successfully transforming them into luminous butterflies. As a result, he became a hero in the town, although most people had no idea how he managed to find so many luminous butterflies. They were more concerned about the outcome than the process.
Alfarr couldn’t allow this to continue. He secretly entered Victor’s alchemy chamber, stole the one and only Brightwing Butterfly, and attempted to transform her back into human form. This way, Victor would lose the material to create the transformative potion, and his plan to revive the Brightwing Butterflies would be thwarted.
“You sicko! Luckily, I discovered your scheme in time. Otherwise, your plot would have succeeded!” Victor’s emotions ran high as he exclaimed, “You actually wanted to turn Emilia into a despicable human!”
“Don’t you love her? If you love her, isn’t it fitting to turn her into a human?” Alfarr couldn’t comprehend the thought process of his friend. He was infuriated and delivered a few slaps to Victor, although his weak physical condition made the blows feel more like tickles.
“Superficial, so superficial!” Victor sneered. “I love her, and her having a butterfly body wouldn’t change a thing. Even if she turned into a blob of slime, I wouldn’t give up my love for her!”
Lin Zhaohe and the others stood by, observing the situation with a sense of curiosity. Mr. Li listened attentively while absentmindedly cracking his nuts. As he listened further, his eyes widened in disbelief, and he cast an incredulous gaze at Lin Zhaohe and Zhuang Lao.
Lin Zhaohe: “What does that look mean?”
Mr. Li: “You guys wouldn’t…”
Zhuang Lao: “I advise you to shut up.”
Mr. Li wisely closed his mouth. He felt that Zhuang Lao wasn’t joking around.
Victor completely lost his sanity upon seeing Emilia transformed into a human. Before Emilia could react, he went to find Alfarr and started a fight, roaring and asking why he turned her into a creature like a human.
Alfarr angrily questioned what was wrong with being human. He cursed, “Aren’t you just a damn human? Is there something wrong with your naturalist philosophy? Why don’t you turn yourself into a butterfly first?”
Victor’s mind was clouded by anger in an instant. “You can insult my character, but you cannot insult my philosophy. I’ve long known that you humanists are cunning and deceitful, and it seems you’re no exception.”
Alfarr retorted, “Oh, come on! It’s clearly the fault of your messed-up naturalist thinking—”
Unable to bear the insult to his philosophy, Victor reached his limit. He reported that Alfarr intended to blow up his laboratory, which led to Alfarr being sent to prison. Victor made sure he had no contact with anyone and secretly added a specially concocted alchemical potion to his food, attempting to transform Alfarr into a Brightwing Butterflies as well.
“By the time I discovered what he was up to, I had already grown wings. That cunning and deceitful scoundrel!” Alfarr recalled past events and began striking Victor in pain. “Fortunately, I stopped eating the food he provided, otherwise, I might have turned into a butterfly!”
Victor cried out in pain from the blows but remained defiant. “What are you afraid of? Once I turn everyone in the town into butterflies, I’ll come to keep you company.” His tone was calm, as if he were performing some heroic deed.
Alfarr’s anger flared at Victor’s nonchalant attitude. He struck his head again while roaring in fury, “Idiot!”
“You’re the idiot!” They began quarreling again.
Mr. Li couldn’t be bothered with the two of them and turned to Emilia, who stood beside them with crossed arms and a slightly unhappy expression. He asked, “Since Victor wants to turn everyone in the town into butterflies, why did you two snatch the children from the town?”
Emilia replied, “Although they have butterfly bodies, their thinking still retains human aspects. Especially the mothers of the children, they believe that keeping their children in the town would be dangerous.”
Rather than allowing their children to stay in the town and be turned into butterflies by that lunatic Victor, it was better to directly take the children away and ensure their safety.
“I see,” Mr. Li suddenly realized. “So, how many new butterflies have you managed to breed?”
Emilia said, “Not even one.” She seemed to think that the two arguing individuals couldn’t hear her clearly, so she repeated loudly, “All these butterflies are humans transformed—one by one—not a single new butterfly.”
Alfarr and Victor suddenly stopped quarreling and both turned to look at Emilia.
“Not even one?” Victor asked cautiously.
“None at all,” Emilia said. “Even if they’re transformed into butterflies, deep down, they are still human. They would rather hover around humans than glance at the butterflies around them. Would you fall in love with another butterfly after turning into one?”
Victor responded, “Well, it’s not impossible…”
Lin Zhaohe dropped the nut from his mouth onto the ground, and the classic line came to his mind: Humans cannot, or at least should not.
Alfarr cursed, “Victor, you sick pervert. Only you would have a sexual interest in butterflies.”
Victor sneered and said, “Don’t think I don’t know you have a thing for little dogs or something.”
Alfarr broke down, “Yes, I do like them, but humans in general like small dogs, right? It’s the kind of affection for animals. Are you saying that your naturalist philosophy…?” He suddenly realized something, his face filled with horror as he looked at Victor. “No way, Brother. I always thought you were joking.”
Victor also realized that something was off. His confident tone weakened slightly as he said, “You guys don’t have an interest in animals like that, do you?”
Everyone shook their heads, even the head of Lin Zhaohe, the little dog, nodded along.
The atmosphere fell into a dead silence. Victor laughed nervously and said, “I was just joking. You guys really don’t understand humor.”
The butterflies nearby quietly moved a few steps away from him.
“What do we do now?” Mr. Li finished eating his nuts and finally managed to suppress the nauseating scent of alchemy. He clapped his hands, brushing off the dust.
“Of course, we need to turn the people back,” Alfarr said, looking at the butterflies present, feeling an intense headache. “Emilia, do you still want to become human?”
“I don’t care,” Emilia replied indifferently, but suddenly something came to her mind. She glanced at Victor and said, “Never mind, just turn me back into a human.”
Their species had nearly been wiped out. Human capture only accounted for a small part of it. The main reason was the unfavorable environment that wasn’t suitable for weaker butterflies to survive. She couldn’t recall how many of her kind had fallen prey to predators. Even seemingly innocent mushrooms could easily drive them away from their habitats.
The Brightwing Butterflies belong to the light and cannot survive in the darkness of the night.
This was probably the natural law of competition and survival of the fittest. Emilia was not strong enough to break free from the constraints of this law. Whether she became human or not seemed to be less important now.
“You, the culprit, should be turned into a butterfly!” Alfarr accused. “Let you taste this feeling, then you’ll know how it feels.”
“Um,” Mr. Li said, “I think if he had turned himself into a butterfly from the beginning, the Brightwing Butterflies probably wouldn’t have gone extinct.”
The expressions of the people distorted as they thought about something.
When Victor heard Emilia agreeing to Alfarr turning her into a human, his heart turned to ashes, and he suggested killing Alfarr. He no longer wanted to live a meaningless life.
Alfarr ignored him and rolled his eyes.
Later, they explained the whole incident to the guards and the mayor of the town. Alfarr finally cleared his name, but Victor wasn’t as lucky. The families of those whom he had turned into butterflies came demanding justice, and he was directly thrown into prison by the mayor.
Alfarr rested overnight and examined the butterflies the next day. He assured them that he could help them turn back into humans. Then he carefully examined Lin Zhaohe, and the more he examined, the more furrowed his brow became.
“What’s wrong?” Seeing Alfarr’s expression, Zhuang Lao also furrowed his brow.
“It’s strange,” Alfarr said, “the spell on him belongs to a very special alchemical spell, usually used between loved ones…”
“Between loved ones?” Zhuang Lao questioned.
“That’s right, and this is not just an ordinary alchemical spell. It’s a magic potion exclusive to witches.” Indeed, Alfarr was much more knowledgeable than Victor when it came to transforming humans. He analyzed Lin Zhaohe’s spell thoroughly, “Usually, the magic potion is kept in a container and opened when needed. This spell doesn’t have any malicious intent. Instead, it seems more like…” He carefully chose his words and finally said, “love.”
Lin Zhaohe was stunned. He didn’t expect Alfarr to say that.
“It requires a strong essence of love to brew the spell,” Alfarr sniffed, sniffing Lin Zhaohe, “I can smell blood, tears, and love.”
Blood, tears, and love.
Lin Zhaohe remembered something. He looked at Lin Yan’s face, a thin layer of moisture shimmering in his eyes, as if about to overflow.
Lin Yan noticed Lin Zhaohe’s gaze. He lowered his head like a child who had done something wrong and said, “I’m sorry.”
Lin Zhaohe licked his nose and tasted the salty flavor. This taste reminded him of that New Year’s Eve night.
The warmth from the heater made his body feel cozy. He had a few sips of alcohol, his cheeks still flushed. The phone rang, and he thought it would bring blessings, but to his surprise, the blessings carried an everlasting pain that could never be diluted.
That night, Lin Zhaohe tasted his own tears, losing his family and his best friend.
Lin Zhaohe’s best friend, his good “Brother” with whom he played basketball together for four years in college, died on New Year’s Eve—killed by a character he had written himself.
He couldn’t quite remember the words written in that work anymore. The only thing he remembered was his Brother’s radiant smile and the weight of his hand on his shoulder.
“Lin Zhaohe, the editor contacted me.”
“Lin Zhaohe, my book is published!”
“Lin Zhaohe, so many people left comments. I’m so happy. Everyone loves my book.”
“Thank you, Lin Zhaohe. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. You’re my best, best friend. I must treat you to the most expensive meal.”
Laughter vanished, replaced by piercing wails. Lin Zhaohe didn’t know how his Brother died, or even when his body was found. When his Brother’s name appeared in the news, nobody mourned for him.
The crimes committed by Lin Yan were attributed to the author. Everyone said he deserved to die, and they sighed in relief that he did, or else…
Lin Yan was still remembered, but the author’s name had been forgotten by everyone. Even when mentioned occasionally, it was accompanied by anger and disdain.
“Why create such a character? What evil intentions did he harbor?”
“Good riddance. I feel ashamed for ever liking such a character.”
“I hope those damn authors never write another word again—”
No one dared to create anymore. His Brother was the worst example. When they wrote those words, nobody thought they would become real. All the beautiful, terrible, terrifying, and sorrowful fantasies came to life, appearing one by one beside people.
People couldn’t bear the power they brought.
“I can turn you back, but I suggest you find the source of this spell,” Alfarr’s voice brought Lin Zhaohe back to reality. He felt a pair of hands gently stroking his head, soothing his crumbling emotions.
Lin Zhaohe buried his head in Zhuang Lao’s embrace, hiding his tears. He was immensely grateful to be just a little dog, not having to feign strength by forcing a smile. As long as he had a pair of arms, it was his safe haven.
“The alchemy I used is unstable. He could turn into a little dog anytime, anywhere, unless you find the source and have the enchantress who cast the spell undo it,” Alfarr said. “It’s the safest and most stable solution.”
“Enchantresses? Those ageless women?” Mr. Li clearly disliked them. “I don’t want to deal with them…”
“I don’t like them either,” Alfarr agreed. “They are indeed very dangerous.”
“Where can we find them?” Zhuang Lao asked.
“Enchantresses are hard to find,” Mr. Li said. “This realm is their domain. They often travel through different spaces. Though they aren’t powerful, they always create strange things, which can be troublesome.”
“You should consider yourselves lucky, as the timing couldn’t be better,” Alfarr opened a small pocket watch and glanced at the time. “There’s currently a grand witch gathering happening nearby, on the beach to the east. I’ve been there a few times before and found some really good stuff.” He pondered for a moment. “You can try your luck there.”
“When does it start?” Zhuang Lao asked.
“On the day of the midsummer sun this month.”
In the lower realm, there was a midsummer sun event that occured every six months, where sunlight lasted for twelve hours. This special day was ideal for practicing alchemy that required sunlight. The witches chose this day for their gathering.
According to Alfarr, on this day, all the witches of this realm gather together, have some tea, chat, and cast spells on people they dislike. Mr. Li nodded, indicating that these women were not to be messed with, and it would be better to avoid them if possible…
Zhuang Lao wondered why Mr. Li had such a strong aversion to witches. Alfarr suggested it might be because Mr. Li had been hunted down as an ingredient for witch potions.
Hunted down? Couldn’t Mr. Li fight back against those witches? Lin Zhaohe asked.
“Seems like he couldn’t at that time,” Alfarr whispered. “It was quite unfortunate…”
Mr. Li pounded the table in anger, telling Alfarr not to make baseless claims.
Alfarr shrugged innocently, raising his hands in defense.
“I don’t care about your two’s affairs. Where is the medicine to turn Lin Zhaohe back into a human?” Zhuang Lao asked.
Alfarr took out a vial from his pocket, resembling the one Victor had given before. It was also golden in color, but there was only one vial.
“Drink it, and by the next day, you should be able to return to human form,” Alfarr said. He emphasized once again that the potion was unstable and might have some side effects.
Zhuang Lao accepted it, inquired about the precautions, and put it into his pocket.
Lin Zhaohe was overjoyed that he would finally turn back into a human. He circled around Zhuang Lao excitedly. Zhuang Lao lifted Lin Zhaohe, patting his head like a father looking at his grown-up son with a hint of nostalgia. “Little doggie is finally going to change back.”
Lin Zhaohe raised an eyebrow and asked, “Boss, your tone sounds disappointed.”
After spending half a month as a dog, Lin Zhaohe could finally return to his human body.
Gulp after gulp, he drank the golden potion. Lin Zhaohe felt intense pain in his bones, followed by the return of his limbs. He had finally transformed back into a human.
Lin Zhaohe crawled on the ground for a while before struggling to stand up and resume walking upright. Perhaps due to not using his feet for so long, his two legs almost tangled and caused him to stumble and fall.
He made his way out of the bedroom with great difficulty and saw three people waiting outside.
The three individuals looked at Lin Zhaohe without moving, their gazes involuntarily fixating on his head.
Lin Zhaohe was puzzled and asked, “Why are you all looking at me like that?”
Zhuang Lao stood up and walked towards Lin Zhaohe. “Seems like there are some lingering effects.” He reached out and pinched Lin Zhaohe’s ear.
An electric sensation surged from the tip of his ear, causing Lin Zhaohe to cry out and go weak all over. He almost stumbled but was caught by Zhuang Lao. With a surprised tone mixed with a faint smile, Zhuang Lao apologized, “Sorry, I didn’t expect such a strong reaction.”
While apologizing, his hand didn’t let go. Tears were welling up in Lin Zhaohe’s eyes, and he choked out, “Boss…”
Only then did Zhuang Lao reluctantly release him.
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